Engineers who need to integrate river-flow analysis data with 3D civil design models recently got a boost with the release of a new extension that ties them together. Until the end of the year, Autodesk Labs is offering Project River Analysis Extension software for free as a sort of trial balloon. The software integrates with AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Map 3D for 2012.

Photo courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.
A screen shot of Autodesk's new River Analysis Extension, which is on Autodesk Labs' site and free until the end of this year.

The latest extension can overlay one-dimensional data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center's free River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) onto 3D models built in the 2012 releases of the AutoCAD tools. Those versions feature enhancements such as multiple document interfaces as well as compatibility with 64-bit computing architecture platforms for increased performance.

“The extension is a bridge between our data and the HEC-RAS,” says Nick Zeeben, product manager for Autodesk. “It leverages surface data in Map and Civil 3D versions of AutoCAD and leverages alignment like banks of the river.”

For years, the HEC-RAS analysis tool has helped users analyze stream characteristics and perform one-dimensional steady flow, unsteady flow, sediment transport/mobile bed computations and water-temperature modeling.

The new extension has a history: It is based on RiverCAD, a software that Autodesk acquired in 2009 from Boss International Inc. RiverCAD automated the otherwise tedious process of transferring HEC-RAS data to topographic models by hand.

Steven Neugebauer, principal hydrologist for SNR Co., Duvall, Wash., bought RiverCAD's 2009 version for $2,485 just before Autodesk took over the product.

“In our version of RiverCAD, AutoCAD is already integrated,” he says. However, he believes RiverCAD may not be integrated with new AutoCAD releases and therefore could become obsolete.

Autodesk hasn't said whether River Analysis Extension will be bundled with AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Map 3D or stand on its own after the trial period. The answer may depend on user feedback through the end of the year at the Autodesk Labs site (